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Senior Living: Terms Explained and Points to Consider


With more knowledge regarding industry terms, seniors can find the services and facilities they need, without risking their livelihood through improper care.


To better understand the various terms within the industry, Dawn Harsch, President & CEO of Exquisicare, gives us a breakdown of the categories of senior living in Canada, beginning with long-term care.

“Long-term care, nursing homes, and congregate care are interchangeable terms that are typically used to refer to government funded nursing homes,” says Harsch. “Long-term care and nursing homes are often used interchangeably. In Alberta, some long-term care homes are legislated by the Nursing Home Act. These facilities tend to look and feel like a hospital, not a home, although in recent years there have been attempts to make these long-term care homes look and feel more residential in nature. While typically government funded, there are several different ownership structures: government owned and operated, not-for-profit (NFP) owned and operated, for-profit owned and operated, and a combination of any of the above, maybe privately owned but NFP operated.”

Harsch continues, “Regardless of who owns and operates traditional long-term care, they all get funding for the care from the government. At least that’s how it used to be. What we are now seeing is completely private long-term care, like ExquisiCare. Individuals who have multiple medical comorbidities and need frequent unscheduled care are choosing to access their long-term care in private environments. The benefit to completely private care is that the innovative models are resulting in much better care, outcomes and quality of life.”

Next, Harsch informs us about assisted living. “Assisted living, supportive living, congregate care and licensed supportive living are all used interchangeably, but often refer to the same scenario whereby the senior lives in their own suite and has meals and other ADL’s (activities of daily living) provided by care staff. All assisted/supportive living sites must be licensed by the Alberta Seniors and Community Housing Association.”

Harsch also explains designated support living. “This is a type of assisted living, which is also licensed (all senior congregate living sites where care is provided and there are more than three seniors living at that site must be licensed) but in addition to meeting all the requirements for being an assisted living site, the care provided is being funded by Alberta Health Services, so it is a designated site. The seniors residing at a designated site versus a non-designated site are essentially the same. They both have care needs and are making a choice not to live at home.”

To explain services that can be offered in some senior living facilities, Serina Boffey, Executive Director for McConachie Gardens Retirement Residence, part of Revera Inc. says, “Our retirement residences across Canada offer a variety of independent living, supportive living, assisted living and memory care suites. The residences offer best-in-class amenities, tailored recreation programs and fitness facilities, social activities, a variety of daily menu choices and dining options and care designed to support you where you need it, all informed by Revera’s Dimensions of Wellness program, a holistic approach to seniors’ health and wellness. At McConachie Gardens, residents can enjoy our fully licensed pub, full-service café and formal dining room, as well as an outdoor putting green, gazebo and off-leash dog park, among other amenities. Our goal is to support every resident in living a life of choice and purpose.”

Boffey describes the initial insight process. “Starting with your first visit to McConachie Gardens, prospective residents can meet our knowledgeable and compassionate team to gain valuable insights and peace of mind as they explore retirement living. Our role is to provide information and answers to help prospective residents and their families confidently decide what’s right for them now and in the future.

“Often, there are many questions that arise while trying to navigate our health care system, which can be overwhelming to navigate alone. We can provide insights and answers to many of these questions about living options, current and future care options and just how retirement living fits within the healthcare system. No question is too big or too small. We strive to provide clarity so prospective residents and family members can make the best, informed decision for themselves and their loved ones. We encourage everyone to look around and gather lots of information prior to choosing their new home. We want every resident to receive personalized care that lets them live a life of purpose.”

Boffey also explains their innovation programs, saying, “Revera launched the Innovators in Aging program, a $20 million capital fund that invests in innovations and startup companies that are improving the aging experience. The program helps entrepreneurs to build and market products, services and technology geared toward improving the lives of seniors. Innovators work closely with our frontline staff and residents on pilot projects and Revera supports the entrepreneurs with business advice and investments in products.”

Affordability is a large concern for those planning for their retirement futures. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada is one of the insurers that offers long-term care insurance. Vineet Kochhar, Senior Vice President, Insurance Solutions at Sun Life gives us a general overview of long-term care insurance.

“In Canada, long-term care insurance provides a benefit if you become unable to care for yourself due to aging or severe illness. This type of insurance can help provide more control and choice while helping to protect your savings and income in your elder years.”

Kochhar explains how insurance helps with the affordability of long-term care. “Staying in a long-term care facility can cost thousands of dollars a month. Government healthcare programs may not cover all of the support services you need. The money from long-term care insurance can pay for care at your home, at an adult day-care program or in an assisted living or long-term care facility.”

Kochhar gives a rundown of long-term care plans, noting, “Generally speaking, there are two types of long-term care insurance: plans that reimburse specific expenses such as homemaking or private nursing services, or plans that provide an income-style benefit. This means you would receive money on a regular basis to use it any way you choose. Once you become dependent as defined in the policy and meet the required waiting period, you can make a claim to receive benefits. Long-term care plans can provide coverage immediately or after a specified age.”

Kochhar ends with, “At Sun Life, we suggest people aged 45 to 70 consider making long-term care insurance a part of their retirement planning conversations with their advisors. By this age, you are actively saving and planning for retirement or just about to enter retirement, and understand the health risks that come with aging. An advisor can guide you as you develop your financial plan and offer valuable advice. They can help you decide when is the right time to purchase long-term care insurance to ensure financial security later in life.”

Senior care can be daunting to think about, but with proper knowledge of industry terms and assistance from knowledgeable advisors, you can find the exact care you or a family member needs to live a long, happy, and healthy retirement.